Following recent changes to Covid restrictions, ‘Canaries’ by Jay Price (part of Empty When Full, Shape Arts’ latest digital exhibition) aptly reflects the position of disabled people as barometers of risk.
Canaries (Jay Price) is a lightless chandelier. No light, no enlightenment, just a ringing of bells drowning out any voice that stands against that which is unquestionable. It highlights the undesirable role disabled people play as a warning beacon to everyone in society.
Disabled people bore a disproportionate brunt of the negative effects of recent events. Anti-mask and anti-vax movements imprisoned those with certain high-risk conditions in their homes, DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate Orders) were applied to disabled people in hospitals without their consent, and the recurring comment circulated that those who were dying were only those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly. We saw clearly the value placed on disabled people’s lives, and it was mostly accepted by society, as it has never been any other way.
Empty When Full
Empty When Full is part of the Adam Reynolds Award programme and takes direct inspiration from Johanna Hedva’s artwork GLUT: a superabundance of nothing(created as part of their 2021 Adam Reynolds Award). ‘The universe doesn’t care about our feelings,’ the AI voice of GLUT proclaims to its user. What can the AI – divined by Hedva – know of human experience? Of the universe? GLUT asks us to consider the possibility that AI is but a twenty-first century iteration of a primordial impulse, a desire to find meaning and instruction from a consciousness greater than our own.
Empty When Full can be thought of as an exhibition created along the event horizon of our information age. The four new works created by Jay Price, MH Sarkis,Li Yilei, and Keira Fox examine through images, objects, and stories the ways in which too much is never enough, whilst often what we need most is absent. The abundance of choice and acceleration of consumption create a multi-layered illusion constructed from packaging, marketing, and ever-shifting lines.
Designed explicitly for a digital environment, the works in this exhibition continue not only Hedva’s odyssey to disrupt the knowledge we take for granted, but further an inquiry into the confines of ‘art’ that GLUT so powerfully strikes out for.
Elinor Hayes, Creative Producer, said: “The quest initiated by Hedva’s GLUT is not one intended to find answers but to ask questions and rattle cages. These questions pertain not just to the themes of abundance, illusion, and power that are oversaturating contemporary life, but also to the form and design of the creative ways in which we reflect on them.
Empty When Full is a powerful continuation of this unnerving, unsettling conversation. These four artists – so diverse in form and approach – have tapped into the uncanny and phantastical in such a way that the audience emerges tingling, with a ringing in the ear that’s both metaphorical and palpable.”
About the other artworks
MH Sarkis She/her – Work: VAGUS
Interactive digital and film work designed using AI
VAGUS is a visual poem and interactive short film. The hybrid digital artwork makes innovative use of CGI, AI, and speech recognition software to create and steer an immersive audience experience that weaves through an environment made of organic matter, peach-toned cloudscapes, and speculative science fiction.
Developing the tensions and contradictions presented by its use of amalgamated media, VAGUS expounds through colourful vistas and panoramic scenes of nature the sinister threats facing our ecologies, questioning what might become of this natural utopia if the planet strikes back.
Keira Fox She/her – Work: Agnoscia
Film and sound work
‘Ripple marks of calm and storm / blown inside my head.’ Angoscia is a glitchy and temperamental audiovisual artwork made of seven short films and one looping audio track.
A story told sensorially rather than linearly, this artwork unleashes the forces of nature and time to expose the debris left behind; birthing, aging, weathering. Compelling a physiological response to its disruptive stimuli, Angoscia features verse and performance from the artist’s own mother.
Li Yilei They/them – Work: In Times Like These
Digital, interactive game designed using Unity
In Times Like These functions as a digital time capsule and a monument of desires in a reimagined public wishing pond that encourages anonymised private thought-sharing. It also allows participants to create and store a ‘personal deity’ in the form of a downloadable virtual coin.
In this space, gods and ideals can be created through your writings and be preserved in the form of a virtual coin, tossed into the pond. Your digital identity becomes a part of this pool, a carrier of one’s consciousness that has left its trace in the digital realm as data and information.
About Shape Arts
Shape Arts is a disability-led organisation breaking barriers to creative excellence. We deliver a range of projects supporting marginalised artists, as well as training cultural venues to be more inclusive and accessible for disabled people as employees, artists and audiences.
Running alongside this portfolio is the HLF funded National Disability Movement Archive and Collection (NDMAC), a radical telling of the story of the golden era of the Disability Rights Movement; and Unlimited, which, largely supported by Arts Council and British Council funding, provides a platform for disabled artists to develop, produce and show ambitious and high-quality work, and which aims to transform perceptions of how the work of disabled artists is received in the mainstream art world.
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